I have noticed lately people being a little cagey with me when I compliment them.
Me: “Ooooh nice top – such a good colour on you!”
Them: “Thaaaanks” *awkward eye-contact…please don’t ask me where it’s from*
Apparently I have become some sort of ethical fashion police and some people tend to tiptoe around me justifying their purchases and hoping I don’t ask to see the label of their tops! YIKES! That’s the thing with social media, blogs and the like – you present yourself in a forum with a somewhat limited capacity for full-picture understanding and then we have to leave it up to other people to define what that means and who we are.
I am well aware that my ranty, ethical, justice-loving posts can come across all self-righteous at times but I’m still learning. I use this space and other forms of social media interaction to test out my learning with others, to challenge me, shaping my ideals and my understanding a bit more.
I guess in respect to clothes I feel really compelled by the amount of money that is spent on fast fashion, more often than not at the expense of the garment makers who don’t get paid properly. This alone, not to mention the environmental impact fast fashion has on the earth because of our need to have 17 stripey items in our wardrobe, I think I have plenty of reason to feel so strong. (I have approximately 17 stripey items in my wardrobe. Yes, even I was shocked). So hear me out when I say I’m not judging – I’m compelled – and I think when you’re particularly compelled about something and are a typical Type A personality, you find it hard when other people aren’t as compelled as you.
It hasn’t been a conscious thing, but I haven’t bought any new clothes since the new year. I got a couple of tops out of the charity shop, but nothing new. And you know what – it’s incredible how quickly you think you ‘deserve’ something. I had a little hour to myself the other day so I called in to the shopping centre grab a fancy coffee and wandered into TK Maxx for a browse. Pretty soon I was coming out in a bit a of sweat at all the lovely things that I was desiring. I left pretty quickly, but it made me think hard about how easily we can convince ourselves of our ‘needs’. I recently read this quote:
It’s vital that we think of ourselves not just as buying machines, but as citizens who can be active and tell companies what we think.
We are the customers – we hold the power in these relationships so we can have a voice and I really believe we should. This trek into more ethical fashion choices hasn’t been an easy one for me but I’m learning and I wanted to share some of that with you here because I really think there are more of us wanting to live with better intentions these days – maybe that’s you.
I’ve come across a couple of good online tools to help you figure out whether some of your favourite high street shops are meeting ethical standards – it’s been eye-opening for me – I hope it is for you as well.
Measure Up is a new website that will compare companies based on 10 different categories/standards and you can look at a full list or compare different shops. Below is a screen shot of a little comparison I did between H&M, Topshop, Tesco Clothing & Primark. The red suggests no evidence, the orange is little evidence and the green shows that there is evidence.
It’s important to be educated on what each category means and if you click on it it will give you a brief description. For instance – Tesco has a green circle to state that they have a Living Wage Ethical Code, meaning they have it in writing that all the workers making/producing their clothes should earn a living wage. You will then see under Evidence of Living Wages that they have a red circle. Measure Up states that:
Some companies are now facing up to the reality that, although they might like to think their workers are being paid a living wage, they do not have any evidence or data to back up this claim. Although they have a code of conduct which commits to paying living wages, some companies have not been ashamed to admit that their workers may not currently be receiving a living wage.
To me this would suggest that Tesco have some work to do to ensure that their workers are ACTUALLY getting paid properly.
Another online resource is Ethical Consumer.
It’s similar in that you can see how many of your favourite high street shops score on different criteria to do with the treatment of people, the environment and animals etc.
Finally, a more comprehensive read on this stuff can be found on Labour Behind the Label. The whole website is great for information and campaigns but my link sends you to the scoring of high street brands.
In all of my research there’s not that many companies that I’d be really quick to give my money to but in the instance where I do buy things that are new, here’s where I’m more comfortable making my purchases:
* M & S
* New Look
I hope that helps some of you that are with me on this goal to buy clothes with a conscience. If you know of anything I’ve missed out – please shout – we’re all learning!